Remembering Absent Meaning
Installation shots from the thesis exhibition in New York 2012
Last summer, I visited Banaras and asked my grandfather if he remembered his childhood home, his room and how it had changed over the years. He went from an objective description of the room to remembering people and events located in and around the house. The course of these accounts changed when the question was repeated another day. New associations were made, characters were introduced and fresh emotions were attached to the old narrative. The digressions too made their appearance at different instances in his story, deviating from their prior progression. This made me curious about how memory functions, its relationship to objective reality and time.
The act of recording, sequestering a moment from the continuum of time and detaching things from their context is embedded in the nature of photography. Museums and archeologists preserve objects and edifices too. But how can meaning be preserved? Because meaning is not a disembodied entity that exists on its own. It is bestowed by a conscious, experiencing agent: the rememberer Robert Shields kept a journal of every minute of his day for more than twenty years. “My Diary is complete. The entire day is accounted for.” He recorded the weight of the daily newspaper, temperature, food prices, his food consumption, nasal hair for genetic analysis and slept in two hour intervals so he could record his dreams. By the time of his death, he had accumulated 35 million words in his diary. However, the affect of these events and actions on him were left out.
Does the form we give our thoughts, the words we select to isolate our ideas, actually work against meaning, making us forget what we thought we once wanted to express? asked Derrida. The act of gathering, sorting and arranging thoughts against a template of grammar is holding sand in one’s fist. A lot is slipping away.
In the no-place of the mirror, the present as the fleeting instant, the past invoked by this moment and the future memory of this reflection might simultaneously gather. What would be the relevance of memory if there were no past, no future; in timelessness?